People often ask me, “Is it true that everything happens for a reason?” In such instances they’re usually not questioning the good things that happen, because as part of our human nature we welcome the things that make us happier, better, more fulfilled, or that propel us farther along the path we have chosen.
When individuals ask the above question, their quest is typically to understand something that has gone wrong, or that has caused them pain, or that has resulted in failure. It’s when we are facing unwanted challenges that we often revolt against the events that have occurred.
My reply is usually something like this, “Yes, everything happens for a reason, if we seek the meaning behind the things that occur and the motives behind how we respond.” I don’t know, however, if the so-called reasons are the “cause” of the things that happened, or if we postulate reasons as an “effect” from what has happened.
If we are able to discern reasons, or even perhaps fabricate them to meet our psychological needs, at least we can reconcile ourselves with the fact that there is a higher purpose playing out, as mysterious and perplexing as it might be. If there were no such reasons, our lives might seem to be purely haphazard, as if we are the victims of things that are out of our control. In a sense we are masters of our own destiny only to the point of being able to navigate the events that occur according to our highest good.
For those who are pragmatically inclined and who have the moral fortitude to delve into even the darkest corners of reality, there is always a positive intent that can be identified to an event, with only a few exceptions to the rule. Some events are so extraordinarily destructive that we fail to make any sense of them in any manner that has human significance. We can only focus on our portion of the world, and make due with the modicum of rationality that we are able to exercise in comparison to the magnitude of the event.
For those who are spiritually inclined and who have the depth of soul to plumb the deepest recesses of their psyche, there is a cosmic energy at play that can be recognized in the plethora of possibilities that the universe provides. The underlying premise is, “If it can be, it very well might be.” Stated differently, “If it can happen, it very well might happen.”
We ought to recognize that there is no absolute positive or negative value inherent in any particular event, other than in relation to other events. For everything good that happens here, something bad happens somewhere else. For everything good that happens now, something bad happens at some other time. It seems nature insists that the sum total of all events over time and space equals a neutral equilibrium.
All that being said, we must also appreciate that our beliefs are subject to our perceptions. Whether it is true or false that “everything happens for a reason” in large measure depends on what we believe. We understand our world based on the way we see it, hear it, feel it, and we build mental maps of our experiences. These maps serve as our “model of the world.” If our model is constructed on the belief that “everything happens for a reason,” then in all likelihood we will discern or fabricate a reason for everything. If, however, our model is constructed on the contrary belief that “nothing happens for a reason,” then in all likelihood we will not discern or fabricate a reason for anything.
Our mental processes become circular, and self-feeding. What we believe predicates what we experience, and what we experience reinforces what we believe. Our “inner world” operates on the external world by superimposing its model on it, and thereby deleting some facts, distorting some details, and generalizing some information. In this sense we are prisoners of our own constructs.
“Is it true that everything happens for a reason?” It depends entirely on what you believe. The more pertinent question might be, “Why do you believe there is a reason?” Conversely, another pertinent query is, “Why do you believe there is no reason?” Finally, from an even broader perspective, “How does your answer influence the way you see, hear and feel the world?”
In a paradoxical way, asking the question “Is it true that everything happens for a reason?” in itself provides a clue to the likelihood that there is a reason for asking the question to begin with. As an old adage proclaims, “To ask the question is to answer it.”